Planting The Flag

pink toothbrush

It’s like any other morning that she has stayed over.  We have been doing this for a little over a month and a half.  “Dating,” or “seeing one another” I guess you would call it.  We have not made anything “official,” haven’t had “the talk.”  It’s pretty nice actually.  No labels.  No drama.  No fuss.  We simply spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.  If only it were always this easy.

On any given morning we wake up, roll around under the sheets, push it until the last possible moment, phone alarms blaring, then spring out of bed… her to her car so she can get home and get ready for work, and me to the coffee machine in my place so I can begin my day as well.  I give her a gentle hug and a kiss, she smiles, tells me to have a nice day, and she heads out the door.

If only it were always this easy.

I check e-mails as the coffee is brewing, take some vitamins, down a protein shake.  A little Facebook.  Online news.  Twitter.  The usual morning routine.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  I head to the bathroom, and as I round the corner, I see it, plain as day.

Why does it have to be this hard???

Hanging smugly, almost triumphantly over my sink, is her toothbrush.

It stares at me.  Challenges me.  Stuns me.

She has planted the first flag.  The invasion has begun.  Shit has gotten real… real fast.

I do what any man in my situation would do.  I FUCKING PANIC.  Not because I don’t see myself with her.  Not because I don’t want to be with her.  But because this toothbrush brings us to an entirely new level.  A level to which I had not yet agreed.  The toothbrush itself is inherently symbolic of the very thing that has allowed our time together to be uncomplicated… the toothbrush is in and of itself, a label… a statement of  her intentions.

In my mind, I am confident it won’t be long before I am surrounded by candles and oils and scents I don’t understand, colors I cannot pronounce, and plants I did not know existed.  I will lose all privileges in deciding housing appearance (“decorating”), I will have more “show” towels (you know, the kind that look good, but can’t soak up a single droplet of water?!) than I know what to do with, I will have more throw rugs and more pillows than any human being could ever need.  And when I only have 1/16th of the closet space I once had, I will look around, accept my defeat, and think back to the day, not so long ago, that the toothbrush was firmly planted on the side of my sink.

This toothbrush, that I stare back at now, signals the beginning of the invasion.

“Come on, man.  She accidentally forgot the toothbrush.  Calm down,”  you might say?!  Oh… really.  When, in the history of time, I ask you, has a woman ever done something “accidentally?”  We need to give women more credit than that.  They are creatures of great ability, with impeccable planning skills, and powers of persuasion (sometimes manipulation) that no man can resist.  Even when a woman tells you she doesn’t know why she did something, in the end there is always some kind of purpose behind it.  Even the accidents are on purpose!  And how can we, as men, defend against it?  Well, if we really truly like the woman and have developed feelings for her, the answer is… we cannot.

And that’s the point.  She didn’t leave her toothbrush behind on day one, or week one, or even month one.  That would be a true accident.  She has brushed her teeth every single night she has stayed at my place over the past month and a half , and without fail has taken the toothbrush with her every time she has left.

But now, here it sits.  And why?

Because I caught the most dangerous STD known to man… I caught feelings for her.  I like her.  I like being with her.  I want to keep spending time with her.  And she can sense it.  She knows.  And she also knows I am male… so she knows I have a deep seated, intrinsic, carnal fear of commitment.  So she knows I will shy away from commitment any chance I get.

And with this knowledge, she plants her flag, not only announcing the impending invasion, but even more importantly, announcing our connection.  It is an unspoken gesture.  She has gambled, and she has gambled correctly, that I won’t say a word about the toothbrush.  After all, that would lead to an actual discussion of “what this is,” a Q&A with questions like “what are we doing,” and  “are we girlfriend and boyfriend?”

And yet, in not saying a word about the toothbrush, I silently submit to a connection beyond just hooking up, dating, and/or booty calls.

This is my dilemma.  I either quietly accept the toothbrush and silently admit that this is in fact becoming something more serious between us, or I confront the situation head on, mention the toothbrush, and get into the ever-dreaded conversation about the state of affairs and labels.

I, as most men would, choose the quiet route.  Why?  It is a way to let her know that I accept things are moving forward, but allows me the “out” in the future to still be able to say “we never talked about this… we never decided on a  label.”

It’s a guys silent relationship parachute.  At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.  That’s how we can sleep at night and not be in constant fear of the commitment we just entered into.  Is it a delusion?  Yes, most definitely.  Because, let’s be honest, if shit does hit the fan and things go sideways, the “we never put a label on this” defense isn’t going to cut it anyway.  Actions will always trump words.  And inaction (failing to confront the toothbrush head one) ultimately serves as an action (conceding to an agreement that the relationship is more than just casual).

But I digress.  The fact of the matter is, I like her.  She is very high quality, we get along great, and I want to spend more time with her.  But, I cannot articulate that to her as simply as I just wrote it in the previous line.  Absolutely not!  Why?  Because I am a commitment-phobe, like the majority of the male population.

So, as the toothbrush continues to sit defiantly on the edge of my sink, I think to myself, “why does it have to be this hard?”  And in the midst of my panic, I find a glimmer of happiness, and I start grinning.


Because this toothbrush, this flag of defiance, this signal of the ensuing invasion, means she is into me just as much as I am her.


I Call Her Sally

I don’t have the slightest clue what her real name is. I’ve never stopped to ask.  She looks like a Sally, and since I know myself and I know that I will never stop to find out her name, then in my reality, Sally she shall be.

Sally and I, we have a real connection. I see her most every day on my midday run.  And everyday I run by, she waves and says….

Well, at first I had no idea what she said. I run with my iPod at such a deafening volume. It motivates me. But, after running by Sally day in and day out for weeks, I decided to pause the music.

As I ran by, Sally waved and said, “Have a good run, sir!” She smiled and continued to wave as I ran on by.  And when I came back from the opposite direction on my return trip home she said, “Have a good end to your run, Sir!”

And ever since that first day I paused my iPod, it is now my ritual to pause the music ever single time I run by Sally. And it is Sally’s ritual to wave and wish me a good run on the way out and good end to my run on the way back.

Perhaps I should now tell you that Sally is most definitely homeless, and likely mentally ill. She is probably in her mid fifties. She is dressed in dirty frumpy clothes and the same straw hat everyday. She is sitting in the same spot almost every single day I do a midday run. She waves to all the runners, wishes them good runs.  She receives confused and cautious looks from out of towners.

I don’t know if any of the other locals wave back, but I do. I make it a point to acknowledge Sally and wave back. She is kind enough to cheer me on. It’s the least I could do. And maybe I hope that when people see me waving to Sally, they will accept her as I have. You see, I am a little bit envious of Sally.

I don’t remember where I heard it or when, but I have always been struck by the quote, “life is not based on reality. Instead, life is based on the perception of reality.”

Imagine that. Imagine that you perceived the world in the way Sally does. Likely, she has little or no idea what her condition is. If she did, how could she possibly be so happy?! Seriously, she seems so content. So happy. So free. In her perception of her reality, life just simply be perfect. Sunshine, the outdoors, interacting with people, without a care in the world.

Sally exists beyond the boundaries of society. She is neither bound by convention nor the constructed realities of the modern world. Every time I run past Sally I try and draw something from that. I try to be more free in my thinking, less critical of myself. I try to accept myself for who I am. And in that moment, as I run by her, out of breathe and unable to fight anymore, I accept myself.

But, this freedom is fleeting. By the time I am back home, I have given up on acceptance and gone back to the conformist policies of the everyday rat race that is modern human existence.